Tag: december

Lost sheep, coin and son

Lost sheep, coin and son

Luke 15:1-32

Have you ever lost something or someone you loved? I am a very nostalgic person and love to keep as many items that relate to memories as I possibly can. I also treasure people, especially those that have kept in touch after I become ill so when I lose touch with someone, fall out of a relationship, or lose something special to me, it hits me hard!

In each these 3 parables, there is a lost item or person but the reaction to that is different in 1 than the others. In the first 2, the shepherd and the woman actively search for the sheep and coin, but in the third story, the father waits for his son to return home instead of searching for him.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep but loses one of them. Then he will leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the open field and go out and look for the lost sheep until he finds it“. – Luke 15:4

“Suppose a woman has ten silver coins, but loses one. She will light a lamp, sweep the house, and look carefully for the coin until she finds it.” – Luke 15:8

“While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for his son. So the father ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Hurry! Bring the best clothes and put them on him. Also, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get our fat calf and kill it so we can have a feast and celebrate. My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:20b-24

The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (otherwise known as the prodigal son) are all stories told by Jesus to help the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ to understand His teaching. As I grew up in a Christian family and have never turned away from my faith, I had struggled to relate to these stories and apply them to my life. I am not a tax collector, but I am a sinner, as we all are, so this parable is for me too. Though I want to always be a perfect follower of Jesus, I am still just human so cannot be perfect, therefore, there are days or moments that I choose to do my thing and go my way rather than do the things that God would have me do, just like the prodigal son.

Without God’s grace and mercy, the first time I chose my earthly life over His Heavenly Kingdom would have been the last. Grace and mercy are for all. We can’t buy, we don’t deserve it, but God is a loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving Father, so if we turn back, God will greet us with open arms and welcome us back into His family.

You will be rewarded

You will be rewarded

Study of Luke 14:12-14

In this passage, we find Jesus telling yet another parable to the man who He had attended dinner with. You will see when you read the whole chapter, that both the passage before and the one after are both parables and each of them are related to dinners and banquets also. He must have been hungry when He was telling these stories to have had food on brain each time!

  1. Why does Jesus talk use parables of eating and banquets so often in His teaching?
  2. Who was this teaching intended for?
  3. Why does Jesus tell the man to not only invite His rich friends and family but also the poor and crippled, lame and blind to the banquet?
  4. What does Jesus mean when He says, “But you will be repaid when the good people rise from the dead”?
  5. How can we use this parable to help us be more Christ-like in our lives?
Don’t trust in earthly things

Don’t trust in earthly things

Luke 12:32-34

I think there are two groups of people in the world. One group spend their money as soon as they get it and the other group saves as much money as possible, only spending what is necessary. Which one are you? I am a mixture of the two, but I prioritise saving money over spending it on ‘things’.

As you might have noticed, there is often a thread that goes through a few passages in a row or an entire chapter. In this particular one, the message seems to be about not treasuring earthly possessions above God and heavenly things. Although being good at saving money is generally positive on earth (as long as you aren’t greedy!), saving isn’t looked down so well upon in Heaven.

There is a very well known story that you may be familiar with that represents the importance of putting God first. It is the camel and the needle and it can be found in Luke 18:25:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”.

It is not wrong for us to have money or clothes or earthly things that we love, as long as we are not greedy or selfish and don’t idolise those things. It only becomes a problem when we prioritse those over God. If saving your money becomes more important to you than giving it away to people in need, that is when you might need to reconsider what your faith means to you. As Jesus said, ” Your heart will be where your treasure is.”

I need to check myself to ensure that when I save money, I am not doing so for selfish reasons, but that I am doing so with the progression of God’s kingdom and my future in Heaven in mind.

Jesus talks to the experts of the law

Jesus talks to the experts of the law

Study of Luke 11:45-54

As someone leading an online community of Christians (a Church?), this passage in Luke 11:45-54 spoke to me in a big way! Jesus is forced to converse with a group of experts of the law after one of them said they were insulted by what Jesus had been teaching. Jesus was not often on their side, or in favour of what they were teaching the people.

  1. Why do you think the law experts felt insulted by Jesus?
  2. What were they doing that Jesus didn’t like?
  3. Why were the experts of the law enforcing rules on the people but not keeping them themselves? Were they above them? Unaware of them? Did they not really believe they were required to be kept, but wanted control over the people?
  4. When Jesus said, “You have taken away the key to learning about God’, what does He mean?
  5. The passages ends with, ‘When Jesus left, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees began to give him trouble, asking him questions about many things, trying to catch him saying something wrong.’ Why did the experts of the law want to catch Jesus out?
Jesus’ power is from God

Jesus’ power is from God

Luke 11:14-23

There are some situations in which Jesus heals people from physical ailments by casting out demons inside them. Not all physical conditions were or are, caused by demons or other spiritual matters, but this one was. The man was mute as the demon inside him was mute, and in Matthew, we are told he is blind too. That must have been scary for this man and those around him.

In the last week, a broken tooth that I have been waiting to be taken out, has become very painful as an infection has started to build up in there – gross, I know! It doesn’t compare to being made bling and mute by a demon, but it is majorly distracting and nothing seemed to be making it better, so I prayed and asked God to take the pain away until I can get it seen to and get the pain managed with medications and antibiotics to stop the infection spreading. You might be wondering what this has to do with Jesus casting out a demon, but I promise I am getting there!

I have been chronically ill for more than 5 years. For the first few, I prayed that God take the conditions away, but He didn’t do that. Instead He brought me peace and contentment in my situation and gave me great doctors, friends and family members who have helped me in a variety of ways. Since then, I have prayed only for symptom control. For higher pain levels to be lowered, for energy to be increased and for my body to be able to get through a busy day, so when my tooth started hurting really badly, I prayed to God and asked Him to control the pain. I felt Him telling me to be patient, Then I fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning, my pain was 10 times better, and my regular medication controlled it well. I immediately thought of God and how He must have answered my prayer, but then I realised that if my tooth isn’t in pain, the root must be dead, otherwise it would still hurt.

In the events that unfolded in Luke 11:14-23, the people saw a man with a demon inside him making him mute, but then Jesus came along, and cast the demon out, and the man could speak again. Though they had seen this take place, they still thought Jesus must have used the power of Beelzebul as only he could command a demon out.

In my situation, I asked Jesus to remove the pain, and believed He could, yet when He did, I made up a reason for why it got better without involving Jesus in that. When Jesus came through, I didn’t think it possible. Why did I do that?

Somehow, I don’t think I am alone in this. Miracles don’t happen in spectacular ways in my world in the same way they did when Jesus was on earth (or at least I am not aware of them!), but they do still happen. We need to remember that, so when God does something for us like removing tooth pain, giving us more energy, or providing food when we need it but can’t afford it, we recognise it and thank Him for that.

Is it Easter or Christmas?

Is it Easter or Christmas?

‘While everyone was wondering about all that Jesus did, He said to His followers, “Don’t forget what I tell you now: The Son of Man will be handed over to people.” But the followers did not understand what this meant; the meaning was hidden from them so they could not understand. But they were afraid to ask Jesus about it.’ – Luke 9:43b-45

I am frequently puzzled by the contrast of all the wondrous things I read and hear about Jesus doing, both in the bible and in the world today, and the bad things and the seemingly, unanswered prayers. This must have been how the disciples felt too. They had seen and heard the amazing things that Jesus was doing, but they were held back by their doubts and by their confusion around the things He was saying with regards to His future, and what that meant for them.

I am very curious, and am known to ask more questions than the average 4 year old in a day (my parent are thankful for Alexa for this reason!). I struggle with the not-knowing but God is a God of mystery. Sometimes, because it’s best for us not to understand, sometimes, He uses the mystery to grow our faith, sometimes, we just have to wait and sometimes, it’s too big and complicated for us to understand.

Although we can feel confused and alone in working out what is happening around us, God hasn’t abandoned us, expecting us to struggle with our questions alone. Jesus knew the disciples wouldn’t fully be able to grasp what was about to happen, but He kept giving them clues along the way. To us, these clues can sound really obvious, but that’s only because of what we know. If the disciples had retrospect, I am sure they would understand it too, but that’s not how it works.

Sometimes I hear or read something, and it helps me make sense of a particular situation, or come to terms with not knowing why I can’t find the answer. I believe that this is where God is getting involved by sending clues my way. It’s down to me to accept that, just like the disciples, I might not understand right now but maybe one day, I will. Once Jesus rose from the dead and showed Himself to them, the disciples understood what had happened, but they had to wait for that day to come around.

When he was writing this book, Luke included some of the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples prior to His death and resurrection. These must have recalled by individuals after the event so they could be written down for us to read. I can just imagine Peter turning to Luke and saying, “Oh yeah, there was that time He said He was going to die and come back again, but at the time, I had no idea what He was going on about! Oops.”

It’s okay to be confused by everything that is happening – the good and the bad, and its okay to not know the answers. If you need to know more, ask God, and He will help you make sense of the things you need to know, and settle your mind on things you don’t need to know, at least for the time being. Maybe one day, like the disciples, you will look back and it will all make sense.

Chosen?

Chosen?

Luke 7:36-50

Did you know that Christ or Messiah means anointed one? Yes? Well did you know that ironically, unlike Levitical priests, Jesus was not anointed? However, just because He didn’t participate in a ceremony in which oil was poured over Him, like David did before he became King, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, the oil of gladness (Psalm 45:6-7) and was chosen.

I don’t feel that my life has had a clear purpose. I have done things I have enjoyed, I have helped others where I could and pushed on doors that seemed to be opening in front of me to see where they led, but I haven’t ever felt that I had one main purpose in life that I should be preparing for. I don’t know what I have been anointed/ chosen for. Maybe that’s because I am still in the training phase of God’s plan for me, and will be given my mission when I am done, or maybe I have missed that anointing along the way in the busyness of life.

In the start of this passage from Luke 7:36-50, Jesus is visiting Simon, a Pharisee. I don’t know if Simon hadn’t had people over before (unlikely) or if he was just a bad host, but he had not greeted Jesus with a kiss or washed His feet, as was the custom at the time. The woman who entered the house afterwards was not to know this, yet she took it upon herself to kiss Jesus’ feet and wash them, not only with water and soap, but with her tears, her hair and an aromatic perfume!

There is some confusion about who the woman is that washes, kisses and pours perfume over Jesus’ feet. Some believe her to be a prostitute in the area, as in Luke’s account, she is described as a ‘sinful woman’, but in Matthew’s version of events, this woman is identified as Mary Magdalene who’s brother, Lazarus, is raised from the dead. Many people presume this woman to be a prostitute due to the wording used in Luke’s writing but ‘sinful’ is very unspecific. I am sinful, you are sinful, we all are sinful. Acknowledging that we don’t know, I am going to imagine in this instance that she is Mary Magdalene. Not because I want it to be her but she isn’t a one off ‘perfume pourer’. Later in the gospel, Mary is identified as the one of first people to see Jesus alive after His resurrection, and that is because she and some other women had taken spices and perfume to the grave. Although her name is not mentioned, it is quite possible that she was also involved in helping prepare Jesus’ body after His death. This process involved using various spices, oils and perfume to preserve the body.

I started out by explaining that though Jesus was chosen and anointed with the Holy Spirit, He was never officially anointed (i.e. with oil like a Priest) physically with oil, perfume or other substances. Looking at what we have read and found out in the last few paragraphs, I can see I was wrong. Jesus was anointed with a substance like a Priest, it just wasn’t done in a formal way by a recognised figure. Instead, it was carried out at the time Jesus was doing miracles and other parts of God’s work and at the moment He started the process of becoming more God like, the moment of His death on the cross.

With this in mind, I can recall a couple of occasions which people have spoken things over me which at the time sounded ridiculous, but that now, make total sense. I had been anointed by a Mary character but because it wasn’t God directly, I didn’t pay much notice.

Are there times in your life that you didn’t feel chosen or anointed at the time, but with the understanding that not all of us are formally anointed into a role or position, now you can see where God used others to anoint you into His plan? Take a short time to reflect on this properly. You never know what you might have missed that could take your life in a totally new, God planned, direction!

Confusing parables?!

Confusing parables?!

Luke 5:33-39

Although this passage is displayed in the bible as 1 section, it consists of 3 parables, told by Jesus in quick succession. Parables, as you may know, were stories told by Jesus to help make an inconceivable concept more imaginable in the minds of the people at the time. Jesus used common, day to day people, items and events to help make the stories relevant and easy to understand, but if they were clear to the people of the time, sometimes, that means they are not so straight forward for us today, as we are outside of that time, place, and cultural and societal set up.

The first story in this passage refers to the friends of a bridegroom who are being asked to fast but won’t until the bridegroom has gone. There is no more explanation than that which is maybe why we are given the other 2 parables to help us understand each of the other ones in a context.

The second parable is about an old coat which is patched up with part of a new coat, leaving the new coat damaged and incomplete and the old coat, looking odd because the patch doesn’t match the new coat style/ colour/ pattern.

The final parable here is about wine being poured into wineskins. Jesus tells the people that it would be wrong to pour new wine into old skins because they would break and the wine would leak out and be wasted. He goes on to say that no one who tries the old wine (the good stuff!), wants to drink the not so nice wine after. We would always choose the better quality, better tasting wine over a not so nice one.

Now to solve the cryptic messages. First off, the bridegroom story. This is a bit of a mystery. It doesn’t seem to connect with the other parables and it has confused theologians and historians for years with no one being sure what its intended purpose was then or for us today.

Grace Commentary have written an extended version of this blog post and in that, they explain what they believe the message is behind this parable:
‘ Jesus is not opposed to fasting in general, but fasting for his disciples at the present time. Fasting is a sign that a person is dissatisfied with the way their life and world is headed. It is a way of signifying an eschatological hope that God will restore righteousness and justice on the earth, and from a Jewish perspective, send the Messiah to do so (Green 1997:249). But for the disciples of Jesus, that which is hoped for in fasting—the Messiah—is already there. So there is no need for them to fast.’ Although this is a helpful reflection, it doesn’t connect this parable with the other two very obviously, which I believe was Jesus intended purpose of telling 3 stories together.

The other two parables have a similar thread running through them. They talk about the importance of newness and not spoiling new things with old – don’t ruin a new coat to fix an old one and don’t waste good wine by allowing it be stored in old wineskins. It is believed that the new coat and new wine represent Jesus, and the old coat and wineskins represent the old way of thinking, the old laws and set up. Jesus has come to get rid of those and replace them with new ways of living for God. No more animal sacrifices or ritualistic behaviours required!

I encourage you to read more into this passage if you have time. Check out what other writers have found out or believe about the purpose for the parables and their intended meanings. If you find out something new or different, I would love for you to share it with me in the comments below!

Lead us not into temptation…

Lead us not into temptation…

Luke 4:1-13

Are there moments in your life that you feel tempted? I am not tempted easily by others, but I am not good at controlling my own temptations. If there is a bag of sweets by my bed/ chair, I won’t just eat one, I will eat the whole packet… and then feel sick, yet I will still do it again next time.

When I started my chronic illness journey, I was unable to eat or drink due to an oesphageal disease called achalasia. I am 5 years on from my surgery now and thankful for the ability to eat and drink again, but because it is nerve related, the issue is not completely fixed, so my consultant gave me rules to ensure that I got the best, long term results. Oddly, these are the ‘rules’ I am most tempted to break, even though they are put in place to protect and help me.

When Jesus was tempted, He had fasted for more than a month and then was faced with bread and water as a temptation. During the times I haven’t been able to eat for a few days, the things I craved the most are the basics such as bread, pasta, fruit and vegetables. I have experienced extreme hunger and thirst and was tempted every day to eat or drink, leading to pain, nausea and spasms/cramps – not pleasant. Jesus was better at resisting, but he still experienced temptation. He was tempted to turn a stone into bread, to have power and ownership over all the world, and to test God’s power, but everytime, He said no, and the devil lost the battle. Though all these things would have sounded great to Jesus, food, power and control over the Father, none of them would have been right or good at that time. If he had submitted, the devil would have gained control and power over him, and the events that followed would likely have been very different.

My example of temptation is small compared to some of the major temptations that people face, particularly those, which like Jesus’, would affect the lives of other people too, but temptation is temptation, no matter how big, it matters. If we can overcome temptation in small situations, such as saying no to eating that extra sweet which we know we shouldn’t really have, then we will be well practiced when we are tempted to join in gossiping with our friends or giving up time with God to sleep in or watch TV.

Although Jesus won the temptation battle this time, the last line of this passage reads, ‘ After the devil had tempted Jesus in every way, he left him to wait until a better time. ‘ He didn’t leave Jesus forever, the devil left as he wasn’t winning this time, but he planned to come back and I am sure he did.

We can try our absolute hardest not to give in to temptation but you can bet that the devil will be back. The only ways we can prevent him coming back with bigger and better temptations, is to keep avoiding temptation in the small ways and ask God to help us overcome them when they come.

In Matthew’s account of this story, he tells us that when the devil left Jesus, God sent the angels to look after him. When we have spiritual battles, such as those of temptation, and we manage to win the fight, God will be there at the end to comfort and care for us, and repair our armour, ready for the next time. We are not alone. God is always with us, and we can call on Him to help us whenever we need to.